Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ponderosa Pines

It took me a long time to understand why I dislike conifers in landscaping: in the Gallatin Valley, pine trees grow on the mountain slopes, not the valley floor. In part, this is probably due to farming, but I think it is also due to organic reasons. Regardless, I have never liked pine trees in town or yards.

The one tree that makes me change my mind (sometimes) is one that isn't even native to the valley; the ponderosa pine is native to nearly all of the northern Rockies except this valley. It is a bushy, open tree that is missing the dark heaviness that I associate with conifers; it looks cheerful instead of depressed. We have one in our yard - the only conifer we have - but to really appreciate them, you have to spend time in a grove of them, where you can listen to "the whispered plain-song of this elemental congregation." (Donald Culross Peattie, in A Natural History of Western Trees, an excellent book if you are interested in trees.) One of the things I love about our trips to Lewistown is the chance to listen to the wind in the ponderosas, somehow different from any other pines.

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